A Note from the Editor on “Africa’s International Relations”

In: African and Asian Studies
Tukumbi Lumumba-KasongoEditor-in-Chief

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Theorizing Africa’s international relations is a critical investigation about how to explain and understand systematically complexity of Africa’s interactions within herself and her environments, as well as within the external forces in the dynamic world system. It uses the existing massive literature, which embodies scholarship: a variety of theories and methods developed in the discipline of political science and its subfields such as political theory and international relations.

These interactions, their impacts, and their consequences are complex, as they include the issues such as state-state’s relations, national, regional, and international security, diplomacy, commerce, intergovernmental institutions, and how they are examined from either paradigm of centralized or that of decentralized system of governance.

However, for many decades, Africa was governed as a collection of imposed and absolute colonial entities. But, through various national liberation struggles, treaties, consensual, and political arrangements, her systems of governance have been changing. They are also changing to respond to the demands or imperatives from various actors: state, people, citizens, local, regional, and international institutions, and dicta of the internal and external environmental factors. Obviously, these categories of demands are not deriving from the same sources or origins with similar energies.

What should be noted is that changes which are taking place are not linearly explained or explainable. Another important dimension of the Africa’s international relations is not only the scientific explanation of the issues raised in this special issue. Rather, it is also about the pragmatism related to these international relations, which are being part of the ontology of being nation-states. Solutions must be proposed and/or found to resolve the contradictory situation through cooperation. The nature of the cooperation among the African nation-states and their institutions informs us about the real and/or projected future of the African nation-states as international and regional economies and political entities.

In the post-colonial context, Cold War politics shaped ideologically and, in some cases, structurally African behaviors, and political limited choices and actions made by the African nation-states. Thus, African nation-states are not unique in their historicity and ideologies. However, political decolonization processes and their outcomes, missed, in most cases, their expected paths and objectives within the claimed liberal institutions, and civil society’s demands and debates.

What kinds of regional power is Africa through African Union? What do the regional hegemons do? What do they have in common? How do they define and perceive their sovereignties? Do they provide the needed leadership as exemplars?

We must look at particularities of Africa in contextualizing our examination of the Africa’s international relations.

After discussing with Professor Christopher Isike about the possibility for publishing a special issue of African and Asian Studies, I accepted his proposal because of the high quality of theoretical complexity and critical case studies on one hand, and on another hand, we must build theories of Africa’s international relations on critics of realism/neorealism and liberalism/neo-liberalism as defined in Africa, despite their philosophical and political contradictions in practice.

Topics such as regional hegemony, the African Union, security locally or regionally, intergovernmental cooperation, African common positions in African or international affairs, and developmental and strategic issues within the context of the global context are not examined as being autonomous unto themselves and/or isolated single issues. All are part of the intellectual package through which African actors, their institutions, their leaders, and the structures of their actions function. However, functionalism as a theory alone is not sufficient to help understand the Africa’s international relations. Borrowed and/or received paradigms on African development are also problematic as essential African life tends to be generally missed or be peripheralized. Structures, behaviors, ideologies, history, and the quality of the leadership matter.

Africa’s developmental paradigms and African international relations are linked through the same prisms of where Africa is in the world system.

The authors of this special issue confirm the proposition of studying Africa’s international relations from within the parameters of the African conditions, history, and politics without neglecting the dicta of globalism.

However, it should be noted that in the global international relations: “who the actors are; what their institutions are; where they are in geo-politics, and what they have,” all these factors determine the nature of the actions of an actor and its impact in the world system.

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